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'Joint Conference' in J'lem next week
Sheera Claire Frenkel
Palestinians, Israelis to meet for first time about legalizing marijuana.
At a time when Palestinians and Israelis appear on the brink of a new cycle of violence, one group has found a way to have the two come together for a whole new purpose - the legalization of marijuana. Aleh Yarok, Israel's branch of the Green Leaf Party, has organized the first ever conference for Palestinians and Israelis to discuss Marijuana Legalization. Scheduled to take place October 25 at the Hebrew University, the day-long event will see speakers from both populations discuss ways in which they can mutually advance their causes. "There are so many reasons this is important to us, but first and foremost we want to see peace in the region…peace begins with a shared interest to advance certain goals," said Ohad Shem-Tov, the head of Aleh Yarok. While Israel has emerged as one of the worldwide leaders in the practical application of medical marijuana - last year, a group of doctors at the Sheba Medical Center published findings which suggested that marijuana might be one of the most effective tools in combating head trauma - the issue remains on the fringes of Palestinian society, said Shem-Tov. "Arab Israeli families are facing more and more problems with drug addictions in the family. They are beginning to feel that changing the laws might make the situation better," said Shem-Tov. "For many reasons this issue is not talked about as much, and there is no party that resembles Aleh Yarok in any Arab country. We feel that by bringing this to Arab individuals we are putting it on the map." Among the dozen speakers scheduled to address the conference is Harvard Professor Dr. Lester Grinspoon, often referred to as the founder of the medical marijuana movement due to his research in the field during the early 1970s. "He has somewhat of a cult following," said Michelle Levine, the head of the Aleh Yarok environmental division. Levine invited Grinspoon to address the conference after discovering that the Jewish professor had never visited Israel because he had never been invited to speak at a conference here. According to Levine, the idea for the conference came after the group first tried to send a letter directly to Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas. "We wrote the letter, but the day before we could send it Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit was kidnapped and we felt that with all the chaos going on it was not likely that our letter would get read," said Levine.
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